Mar 30, 2015 News
Reports from the North Pakaraima villages of Guyana, Region Eight (Potaro-Siparuni), paint a disheartening picture of the pristine mountain area.
Unemployment and the lack of proper communication links among other constraints make life in the region appear primitive in the age of technology.
In the early part of March, a group of civil society members visited the sparsely populated Region to gather intelligence on the state of living for persons in the Region. Over the course of their trip, the group visited over 15 villages in the district, listening to the grievances and concerns of the villagers.
The travelling contingent comprised Regional Chairman Mark Crawford, Regional Vice Chair Cornel Edwards, Paramakatoi Vice Toshao Noel Thomas, A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Region Eight Campaign Director Gloria Bancroft and APNU+AFC executive member Ronald Bulkan. They subsequently came to Kaieteur News with their reports from the Region’s inhabitants.
Region Eight is generally known as part of the hinterland area. Due to travel constraints, the district faces a type of isolation from the Coastland where most of Guyana’s administrative decisions are made. One of the Region’s major settlements is the mining town of Mahdia. However, once again travel is largely difficult as a result of the poor terrain.
While the terrain proves an arduous task for any traveler, it has benefitted the Region by keeping it highly preserved and is the reason for its pristine status.
Despite daunting mountains, dense forest and miles of unchartered land, people still find homes in the North Pakaraima area. At the last census, the Potaro-Siparuni Region saw a marginal growth in population. It was 10,190 in 2012 when compared to 2002’s 10,095.
However, despite population growth in the Region, a common concern of its inhabitants is the lack of jobs. Regional Chairman Crawford revealed that the people’s number one concern surrounded the issue of low employment.
“Subsistence farming is the only option people these villages have,” said Crawford. He lamented that large scale farming isn’t even an option for those in the Region since inaccessible roads make that near impossible.
The reports also cite a “high migration rate” outside the Region as a result of employment deficiencies, causing many to migrate to the neighbouring Brazilian state of Roraima for jobs.
Inaccessible roadways contribute to another troubling issue, potable water. For the village of Paramakatoi, one of the Region’s larger settlements, Crawford related that villagers were relegated to accessing water from a nearby creek due to a dysfunctional reservoir.
In recent times, the Region has experienced frequent droughts, which have had its toll on the settlement’s water supply. While the creek is virtually a non-issue for smaller villages, Paramakatoi’s size demands an artificial water source like a well or reservoir.
A reservoir was indeed commissioned by the Guyana Water Incorporate (GWI). However, Crawford explained that it’s been a dysfunctional venture since it has not been properly maintained. This resulted in an inadequate water supply to the rest of the village, thus subjecting villagers to use the creek.
“The government is reluctant to build a proper reservoir,” said the Regional Chairman, “What is disturbing is to see the amount of money used to develop Mahdia but not the rest of the Region.”
Moreover, Crawford believes that the underdeveloped state of the Region is a result of politicization from the current People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) administration. At the 2011 Regional and General Elections, Region Eight came out as a stronghold for the AFC, with the party winning the Regional Chair.
Crawford related stories whereby supporters of the PPP/C coerced villages into rejecting visits from members of the opposition bloc, AFC and APNU. What distressed Crawford about the politicization tactics was that it seemed to affect the education system in the Region.
“Many teachers were on the job but are no longer there because of their political affiliation,” claimed Crawford.
Moreover, when Bulkhan, a member of the APNU+AFC coalition arrived at the Kato settlement, signs reading “APNU-AFC you are not welcome in Kato” could be found posted on village buildings.
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